Wind Mobile, Canada's new major cellphone provider, will open stores and announce its service plans Wednesday.
The company, fresh off receiving the federal government's blessing on Friday to launch its service, said it will announce its handset lineup and pricing plans at a news conference in Toronto on Wednesday morning.
Wind, the brand name to be used by parent Globalive Communications Corp., said its network is up and running in Toronto and Calgary, with "beta" customers testing it. The company is opening a host of retail stores in the two cities, as well as kiosks at Blockbuster Video outlets — 13 in the Greater Toronto Area and three in Calgary.
In a statement Monday, the Toronto-based company said "it will provide voice, text and data services to Canadians on a next-generation wireless network and is committed to offering a level of wireless service presently not available in Canada."
Industry Minister Tony Clement on Friday overruled the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and found that Globalive is in fact Canadian-owned and -controlled. The CRTC had ruled in October that Orascom, Globalive's Egyptian financial backer, wielded too much influence over the upstart, so it could not set up shop in Canada.
Telecommunications laws require network-owning companies to be largely Canadian-owned and -controlled.
The government's decision provoked mixed reactions. Consumers cheered the move and welcomed the new competition, while others condemned it as bending the rules.
Opposition politicians said the government should have reviewed the relevant telecommunications laws before allowing Globalive to do business, while the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union said the move was a "sellout of Canadian interests."
Globalive has licences for airwaves across the country, except in Quebec, and plans to launch service in other major cities in the next few months. The company is being seen as a major threat to existing national providers Bell, Rogers and Telus, who lobbied the CRTC and government to prevent its launch.
Globalive on Friday said it would offer a full complement of smartphones, including HTC, Samsung and BlackBerry handsets, as well as portable internet data sticks that can plug into a laptop computer. Executives said they would not initially carry Apple's iPhone or any Google Android phones.
Globalive chairman Anthony Lacavera said that although Wind's business won't be based on rock-bottom prices, it will offer better value than its rivals. Wind will not charge system access or 911 fees, he said.
Other new wireless companies are also set to launch services in the coming months. Toronto-based DAVE Wireless has plans to start in several major cities early next year, while Public Mobile, also from Toronto, is looking to launch in Ontario. Quebecor's Videotron subsidiary is also planning to start service next year in Quebec.